A mental health lifeline: Men invited to confide in barbers during haircuts

Offering a non-judgement ear to help prevent suicide

The clinical setting of a therapist’s office can often be counterproductive in trying to get a client to open up about their problems.

Whereas sitting on a sofa, in a pub, or sharing a pizza with mates somehow feels easier.

Now, you can add barber’s chair to that list as a new campaign is encouraging boys and men to open up to their stylists while they sit during a haircut.

[Credit: Tom Chapman]

The #OurDoorIsOpen initiative is from hairdresser Tom Chapman, who hopes to celebrate the reopening of salons on April 12 by reinventing them as safe spaces for clients.

“Our clients are returning, not only for a haircut, but also for a connection.”

Tom Chapman, The Lions Barber Collective founder

Having lost a friend to suicide, Tom is passionate that no other person should suffer in silence and wants to provide an opportunity where people can confide in their barbers.

Taking to Instagram, he encouraged fellow industry companions to get involved with the hashtag so that customers know who is open not just for haircuts but for chats too.

Tom wrote: “Please share your image of you outside your shop. It has been a tough 12 months for the hair and beauty industry, but I also sense our true value has been realised.”

[Credit: Tom Chapman / Instagram]

Tom continued: “Our clients are returning, not only for a haircut, but also for a connection. We are in an amazing and privileged position, with a license to touch. Something we haven’t been able to do with someone outside our household for months, or no one if you live alone.”

This post-lockdown campaign is one of many that Tom has led following his pal’s death in 2015.

Tom is somewhat of a wellbeing champion, having also founded The Lions Barber Collective, an organisation who strive to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention.

[Credit: Tom Chapman / Instagram]

Through the combined efforts of his job and campaign work, Tom discovered the power of connection between hair and beauty professionals with their clients.

He realised that not only are they considered to be service providers, but salon workers very often build a rapport with customers and become their confidants.

In some cases, a trip to the salon could also be the only contact that one individual has with another person all month.

For these reasons, Tom created a programme to train industry insiders to recognise the signs for poor mental health in their clients, and now equips them with the skills to ask relevant questions to facilitate conversation and signpost customers for further support.

Tom’s work is desperately needed as suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.

To get involved, click here: The Lions Barber Collective.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, you can contact the Samaritans for free and confidential advice or phone them 24/7 on 116 123.


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